That list included going somewhere I haven’t been, and a vacation that would afford me just enough structure since I was traveling alone, yet no set agenda and no accountability to anyone. That was it and I knew how to get it.
My first stop was Capri. I’d never been to there, in spite of the fact that I’d lived in Italy. Capri is a chic little island surrounded by Mediterranean Sea overlooking the Gulf of Naples, famous for shopping and its views from Anacapri, the highest point on the island. It is a slice of European heaven.
I took a bus ride with steep climbs and hairpin turns to get to the midpoint of Anacapri. The road was a single lane with a little more than a foot of gravel separating us from the Gulf of Naples several hundred feet below. The bus driver maneuvered his way up the narrow incline, just missing another bus, and continued onward as if he had not just averted a major disaster. Midway up, we changed to a chairlift for a 10-minute climb to the top of Anacapri. It was chilly and windy at the high altitude, but it was still the Gulf of Naples, so the view was, of course, remarkable.
Precisely when I was about to hop off the chairlift, the sky opened up and the rain poured down, so I ducked into a store to escape. Believe it or not, I am not a big shopper when on holiday since I live in New York City, but I will find time to browse in a town like Capri. Since I was escorted into this boutique by Mother Nature herself, I made a beeline for the sandals I’d just seen in the window. I immediately noticed they had an in-house cobbler, so I couldn’t resist the urge to get some made especially-for-me sandals from this cute boutique. Just as I made my way out of the store with my purchase, the rain stopped, and I thought how serendipitous that moment was — that it’d rained just long enough to get my purchase. Onward to find gelato!
I sailed from Capri to Sicily, then around the southern peninsula of Italy and up the Adriatic. After a day at sea, and some much needed rest and leisure time, we docked in Kotor, Montenegro, the southern most fjord in Europe, which is famed as one of the most beautiful bays in the world. This walled city, heavily influenced by its Venetian roots, and formerly part of Serbia, is now a protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. Kotor’s western European merchant history juxtaposed with its recent eastern European occupation made it quite different from anywhere I’ve been. Different is good, that is exactly what I came for!
I left Kotor and made my way toward Croatia. I’d chosen this itinerary mainly because Croatia has been at the top of my list for some time — and it was everything I’d hoped for. I hopped on a private yacht for a tour around Dubrovnik’s archipelago and explored what can only be described as God’s coastline. After visiting the only inhabited islands in the chain, I returned to the city walls and embarked on my own walking tour.
Once I got to the square, I was intent on finding The Ron Brown Memorial House, a tribute to the former Secretary of Commerce whose plane crashed into the side of a mountain in Dubrovnik en route to a Commerce mission in 1996. The Browns have been my second family since Tracey and I were at Boston College, and I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful family to have embraced me as their own. That bond continues to this day so I set out with map in hand to find the site.
Once I found the house, I stood outside in awe. Here was a man who served our country with such grace, was such an important part of our political fabric, but to me was more like an uncle. I went in, explained who I was an asked them to open the room which held the official photos and tributes. I signed the book and stood there motionless as all the events of 1996 came flooding back. The phone call from Tracey, the immediate trip to DC, the funeral, everything — just like it was yesterday. And there I stood and stood. I finally took some photos, pulled it together, thanked the lady then sat outside in the square. As I looked around this remarkable landscape, once again I was overwhelmed; simply thankful for all the people and opportunities that have filled my life. God doesn’t make mistakes.
I left there and sailed to Hvar, an island that has over 350 days of sunshine, my kind of place! It was truly another paradise and a lovely spot to wrap up 10 incredible days of vacation.
After partying and sightseeing again through London, then sailing, climbing and trekking through new territory in Capri, Sicily, Montenegro and Croatia, I landed back in the Big Apple Saturday evening. Sunday we celebrated our friend Wardell’s birthday at Sundae Sermon in Morningside Park. We had a potluck feast that rivaled the best family reunion, and in a sense it was just that. We danced the afternoon away, celebrating life — what a way to cap off my vacation! I got home, exhausted, but re-energized to get back to work. I am always so grateful in all humbleness as I think, “I love my life!”